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NOJHL NoteBook – December 29, 2011

NOJHL’s Central Canada All-Star Challenge wrap-up

SUDBURY, Ont. – A group of Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League selects are returning home after showcasing themselves admirably during the 1st annual Central Canada All-Star Challenge held in Smiths Falls, Ont.

The inaugural event featured a total of eight teams including the NOJHL as well as four squads from the Ontario Jr. Hockey League, two from the Central Canadian Hockey League and one from the Quebec Jr. AAA Hockey League.

The goal of the competition was designed to provide maximum exposure to NHL, NCAA, CIS and CHL scouts in attendance while providing the players an opportunity to further showcase their talents.

Serving as coaches for the NOJHL were Paul Gagne, bench boss of the Abitibi Eskimos, along with the head coach of the defending NOJHL champion Soo Eagles, Bruno Bragagnolo.

The 20-man roster would go on to produce a 1-2 record finishing round robin play tied for fifth overall among the eight sides.

The following is a breakdown on each game the NOJHL played:

GM 1: OJHL WEST 4 NOJHL 1—The Ontario Jr. Hockey League’s western conference all-stars jumped out to a quick lead and never trailed en route to victory in day one of the event Tuesday.

After Conor McGlynn opened the scoring for the OJHL West three minutes into the contest, Shane Conacher would extend the cushion as he beat NOJHL netminder J.P. Fecteau of the Abitibi Eskimos on a penalty shot late in the session.

Shane Bennett made it 3-0 early in the final period before Nick Esposito of the Sudbury Cubs struck shorthanded at 5:52 to put the NOJHL on the board. Johnny Dora of the Soo Eagles drew an assist.

Rounding out the scoring was Braeden Russell of the OJHL West.

Shots on goal favoured the opposition by a 19-14 margin with James Prigione picking up the win and Fecteau suffering the setback.

GM 2: CCHL YZERMAN 4 NOJHL 1—Game two of the competition for the NOJHL produced a similar result to their opener as the squad fell by an identical 4-1 score.

The Steve Yzerman division all-stars of the CCHL opened the scoring 13:05 into the game as Brent Bisbee found the back of the net beating 16-year-old Ken Applebee of the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils.

Combining to answering back just 35 seconds later were a pair of Soo Eagles as Dallas McLaughlin finished off the feed of teammate Cole Hyrsky to knot the score at 1-1.

However, the CCHL side would strike twice in the final two minutes of the opening frame on goals by Kenneth Neil at 18:25 and Fabian Walsh, who tallied with just 12 seconds remaining.

Wrapping up the scoring was Mac Weegar of the CCHL early in the final stanza.

Appleby was solid between the pipes, despite the loss, facing a total of 29 shots.

That would turn out to be the highest shot margin allowed in any of the 12 round robin games played.

Matt Zawadzki made 10 saves to pick up the win.

GM 3: NOJHL 1 OJHL NORTH 0—The NOJHL wrapped up play Wednesday evening on a positive note by handing the OJHL North their first loss at the event.

They rode the 22-save shared shutout performance by Appleby and Fecteau en route to victory.

The only offense Northern Ontario would need came courtesy of Sudbury’s Esposito who notched the eventual game-winner just five minutes into the contest.

Drawing assists on that marker were Richard Therrien and Kealey Cummings, who both skate for the Abitibi Eskimos.

Appleby played the opening session for the NOJHL turning aside all seven attempts he faced.

Fecteau followed that up by maintaining the strong net presence, making 15 saves, while keeping the OJHL North at bay that included killing off three consecutive man advantage opportunities in that final frame.

Knicholas Dawe stopped 13 of 14 shots in a losing cause the OJHL North.

Esposito’s two tallies left him tied for third overall after round robin action in goals scored while sharing top spot in both shorthanded and game-winning goals with one apiece.

Even with the defeat the OJHL North still finished second in their division, which was good enough to advance them to the semifinal round.

They will take on 3-0 Larry Robinson division CCHL all-stars in one semifinal Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

That will be followed by the CCHL’s Yzerman group tangling with the squad from Quebec in the other playoff match-up at 2:30 p.m.

The winners of those games will then skate in the championship game later this evening with puck drop set for 7:30 p.m.

ON TAP: With the NOJHL’s involvement in the Central Canada All-Star Challenge now complete, the league’s focus now returns to regular season action, which resumes Wednesday, Jan. 4.

That highly anticipated match-up will feature the red-hot Sudbury Cubs hosting the league-leading Soo Thunderbirds at McClelland Arena.

The Cubs have won eight straight games as well as 14 of their past 16 to sit in top spot in the eastern division and third overall with a 20-8-3 record.

Despite only going 6-4 in the last 10 games, the T-Birds still maintain their grasp on first in both points with 52 and winning percentage at .813. The club’s record on the season is 26-6.

Other games on tap for next week include Kirkland Lake hosting Abitibi and the Soo Eagles welcoming North Bay on Friday, Jan. 6.

The following evening features Sudbury visiting the Eskimos while Blind River takes on the Trappers and the Thunderbirds and Eagles will renew acquaintances at Pullar Stadium in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

Rounding out the week sees the Blind River Community Centre as the site as the Beavers entertain the T-Birds in a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Jan. 8.

WEEK IN REVIEW: As the NOJHL prepared for their holiday break only three games were on the docket this past week.

That action saw North Bay complete a home-and-home sweep of Abitibi while the surging Cubs of Sudbury finished up 2011 with a home ice victory over Kirkland Lake.

The opener of the Trappers-Eskimos series saw recently acquired Brad Gehl provide the heroics as his second goal of the night, 1:09 in overtime, lifted North Bay past Abitibi 3-2 on Dec. 21.

Bryce Lipinski was the offensive catalyst in the finale as he fired a hat-trick for the Trappers in the win while Matthew Salituro chipped in with a pair of markers and an assist.

The other league contest saw the Sudbury trio of Jordan Carroll, Jamie Haines and Nick Esposito continue their torrid offensive pace as they combined for 11 points in the home triumph over visiting Kirkland Lake.

Carroll registered two goals and as many assists in that contest as the NOJHL’s leading point producer ran his overall total to 86.

The 20-year-old forward is just 23 points away from matching the team’s career single season point record of 109, which was established by Brian McGarry during the 2005-06 campaign.

Carroll is also 17 assists short of setting a new club mark for helpers in a season with 62. He’ll require 21 goals to match the organization’s career season best number of 62, set by Matt Shank back in 2001-02.

Haines also had four points of his own vs. the Blue Devils as he and Carroll both extended their current NOJHL-best consecutive game point streaks to 22.

During his outburst Haines has racked up 60 points, including 25 goals.

For his part, Carroll has notched 28 tallies along with 31 assists for a combined total of 59 points.

CJHL RANKINGS: The Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 rankings remain status quo this week as most of the 10 leagues remain on a holiday hiatus. The next listings are not set to be released until Monday, Jan. 9.

A look back to the most recent CJHL rankings saw the NOJHL leaders, the Soo Thunderbirds; come in at No. 10 while the Soo Eagles and Sudbury Cubs both earned honourable mention status.

The top ranked club in the CJHL was the Woodstock Slammers of the Maritime Hockey League. The Penticton Vees (BCHL) and Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) rounded out the top three, coming in second and third respectively.

The weekly rankings are compiled in consultation with National Hockey League Central Scouting and are presented by PlayingUpHockey.com.

They are based upon a variety of factors, including the league in which the team plays, winning percentage, win-loss record, and the total points accumulated, goals-for versus goals-against ratio, etc.

CJHL Top 20 rankings (As of Dec. 19)

1. Woodstock Slammers (MHL)
2. Penticton Vees (BCHL)
3. Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)
4. Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL)
5. Nepean Raiders (CCHL)
6. Battlefords North Stars (SJHL)
7. Trenton Golden Hawks (OJHL)
8. Wisconsin Wilderness (SIJHL)
9. Dauphin Kings (MJHL)
10. SOO THUNDERBIRDS (NOJHL)
11. Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL)
12. Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
13. Newmarket Hurricanes (OJHL)
14. Portage Terriers (MJHL)
15. Weyburn Red Wings (SJHL)
16. Wellington Dukes (OJHL)
17. Lloydminster Bobcats (AJHL)
18. Humboldt Broncos (SJHL)
19. Cowichan Valley Capitals (BCHL)
20. Sherbrooke Cougars (LHJAAAQ)

Honourable Mention: SOO EAGLES (NOJHL), SUDBURY CUBS (NOJHL), St. Michael’s Buzzers (OJHL), Brockville Braves (CCHL), Surrey Eagles (BCHL).

The CJHL is comprised of the 10 Jr. A hockey leagues across Canada. You can learn more on the CJHL by visiting their website at www.cjhlhockey.com.

PlayingUpHockey.com is the premiere social network website specifically designed for hockey players, scouts, coaches, fans and advertisers.

Their website allows players to create free personal profiles to promote their accomplishments and get noticed by scouts and coaches at upper levels. Just as importantly, our site fosters player and parent learning and knowledge about what it takes to successfully be recruited and simply, “play up”. Visit PlayingUpHockey.com today.

WEBSITE: The NOJHL website offers the latest news and information on the seven-team loop ranging from their schedule, statistics and additional notes on this the 50th anniversary season of the league.

You can find the website online at www.nojhl.com.

FASTHOCKEY: Fans can watch live NOJHL games online on a pay-per-view basis throughout the year via FASTHOCKEY.

Simply visit nojhl.fasthockey.com to sign up or for more information.

DUDLEY-HEWITT CUP: The NOJHL champion while advance to represent the league at the 2012 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship, which will be hosted by the Thunder Bay North Stars of the Superior International Junior Hockey League, April 17-21.

Joining the NOJHL in the Lakehead at the Fort William Gardens will be the title holder of the Ontario Jr. Hockey League as well as the SIJHL champions and the host North Stars.

It continues to be a neck-and-neck battle for top spot down in the OJHL.

The St. Michael’s Buzzers and Trenton Golden Hawks share the best numbers, points wise, with 61 apiece with the Buzzers holding the edge in winning percentage at .847 with a 29-4-3 record while the Golden Hawks come in at .824 having played one fewer game. They are 29-5-3.

Up in the SIJHL, the Wisconsin Wilderness maintains their grasp on top spot with an impressive 28-3-1 mark.

Winners of 11 in succession, Wisconsin is seven points clear of second place Fort Frances, who have won four straight heading into 2012 as they boast a 23-8-4 record.

Thunder Bay meanwhile has struggles as of late, having dropped three in a row heading into the New Year.

They still sit third in the SIJHL standings however on 37 points and a 16-11-5 mark overall.

The 2013 Dudley-Hewitt Cup will be hosted by the Sudbury Kal Tire Cubs.

NOJHL TEAM-BY-TEAM NOTES

ABITIBI ESKIMOS: Abitibi has nine games scheduled in January with only three on Jus Jordan ice. Four will be on the road will the other is a neutral site contest in Timmins where they will serve as the home team…The Eskimos will look to regroup after having gone 2-5-3 in their past 10 outings…The club remains second in the NOJHL Eastern Division and fourth overall at 16-13-4…Their 12 home wins on the year are the second highest total in the NOJHL…Richard Therrien remains the team’s leading point producer having racked up 61 points in 33 games on 26 goals and 35 assists. His offensive numbers leave him fifth in NOJHL scoring.

BLIND RIVER BEAVERS: The Beavers will look to reverse their fortunes in the New Year as they commence a four-game home stand at the Blind River Community Centre Jan. 7 vs. North Bay…The squad went a disappointing 1-7 in December including being shutout three times…The club sits in the cellar of the NOJHL western division as well as seventh overall with a 5-28-2 record…The trio of Joel McAuley, Paul Muio and Tyler Brown are list one-two-three respectively in team scoring with point totals of 20, 19 and 17…Shane Snow has points in four of his past five games.

KIRKLAND LAKE BLUE DEVILS: The first-year Blue Devils kick off the 2012 portion of their schedule at home Jan. 6 vs. Abitibi. That is one of five the club has on home ice next month. They only have two road contests in January…Travis Jones has points in three of his past four games. His 29 total points lead the team. Dustin Roy is next with 27. He has gotten on the score sheet in nine of his last 11 contests…All of Jordan Turbide’s 11 goals so far this season, including three game-winners, have been scored since Nov. 11.

NORTH BAY TRAPPERS: A two-game sweep of Abitibi prior to Christmas has brought the Trappers to within two points of the Eskimos in the overall standings…The club has won four straight heading into their next game, Jan. 6 at the Soo Eagles…Matthew Salituro has taken over the team scoring lead with 29 points. Danny Desrochers, Brad Edwards and Jonathon Aubertin are all close behind with 28, 27 and 26 respectively…Mitchell Knight still leads all NOJHL netminders in goals-against average at 2.69 among those who have played 500 or more minutes…The Traps have allowed the third fewest goals in the league at 116…North Bay will play 10 times between Jan. 6-29.

SOO EAGLES: The defending NOJHL champion Eagles are red-hot having won eight straight games and have also gone 12-1 since late October. They now trail the first place Soo Thunderbirds by only five points in the overall standings and also hold three games in hand on their cross border rivals…The Eagles boast five skaters among the top 10 in NOJHL offensive production. Brock Raffaele (29g-29a-58pts) sixth, Brian Depp (27g-29a-56pts) is seventh, Shane Totten (17g-30a-47pts) holds down ninth while Travis Payne (15g-31a-46pts) and Gavin Burbach (13g-33a-46pts) are knotted for 10th…Luis Puig has gone an impressive 7-0-1 in net since joining the club while posting an solid 2.60 goals-against average and .919 save percentage…Defencemen Derek Diaz (3g-4a) has a four-game point streak.

SOO THUNDERBIRDS: The T-Birds hold down top spot in the standings with a league-best 26-6 mark heading into their Jan. 4 encounter at Sudbury. They also boast the best winning percentage overall at .813…A well-balanced attack has seen to Soo produce 10 players with 20 or more points so far this season. Leading the way is Micky Sartoretto as the Sault Ste. Marie native has averaged two points per game with 62 in 31 contests. His 27 tallies and 35 assists leave him fourth in NOJHL scoring. Teammate Matt Amadio sits eighth in the league in offensive production with 52 points, including 17 goals…Goalkeeper John Kleinhans leads all goalies in wins (17), shutouts (4) and minutes played (1,405). Among those with 500 or more minutes in net he is second in goals-against average at 2.82…Six of nine games for the Soo will be played on the road. Two of three home games next month will be played at the Essar Centre.

SUDBURY CUBS: The surging Cubs are rolling heading into their Jan. 4 home game vs. the Thunderbirds having gone 10-1 in the last 11…Sudbury continues to sport the top three scoring leaders in the NOJHL…The NOJHL’s leading point producer, Jordan Carroll, has the second highest offensive numbers in the entire CJHL with 86…Jamie Haines, who is second in the NOJHL offensively, leads the league in game-winning goals with seven. No. 3 overall scorer Nick Esposito is tops in power play markers with 14 while Carroll leads the way in shorthanded tallies with four. He also shares second overall with four game-winners…The team leads the NOJHL in goals scored with 188…Their nine road victories is a tie for the most in the NOJHL…Five of nine games in January will be played on the road.